Episode: 543 |
Jill Stoddard:
Author of Imposter No More:


Jill Stoddard

Author of Imposter No More

Show Notes

In this interview, author Jill Stoddard and Will Bachman discuss the concept of impostor syndrome. Jill defines the experience as a state  where individuals question their competence and legitimacy, even when there is objective evidence to support their accomplishments. The fear is that they will of be outed as a fraud. The phenomenon was officially identified in 1978 by Pauline Clance and Suzanne IMEs, who believed it only existed in high-achieving women. However, culture rebranded it as a syndrome which Jill addresses.


The Background on Imposter Syndrome

Jill believes that the imposter phenomenon has been around for a long time, with prevalence rates averaging between 40 and 70 percent. She suggests that it has been present in early humans, who, when part of a tribe, had a survival advantage due to social comparison and fear of being ousted from their tribe. Early humans engaged in social comparison to ensure they didn’t get kicked out of their tribe, which was often a life-or-death situation. The modern world, with technology and social media, has created a context where this issue has been amplified. Jill calls for a cultural rebranding and a redefining of the impostor phenomenon or impostor experience. This phenomenon has not been extensively researched, and it is important to know that most discussions focus on hypotheses rather than empirical questions. However, research suggests that these impostor thoughts and feelings are positively correlated with success, making the more successful an individual, the more likely they are to have these feelings. Jill discusses the complex reasons behind this phenomenon, including the assumption that others are more competent than they are, the Dunning Kruger cognitive bias, and social and cultural influences. She mentions that in the 70s, when this phenomenon was thought to only impact high-achieving women, it was rebranded as sexism. Her hypothesis and others have suggested that people who have experienced marginalization, such as being told they don’t belong in male spaces, or being told they don’t belong in white spaces, are more prone to experience imposter syndrome.


Understanding Imposter Syndrome

Jill asserts that it is important  to recognize that the more we know and the more we believe others are competent, the more likely we are to feel impostor syndrome. Additionally, it is essential to acknowledge that the stigma surrounding this experience is often perpetuated by those who have experienced marginalization, such as women, people of color, and gay individuals. Jill mentions that impostor syndrome can negatively impact career success, and that it is important to recognize that this is a systemic and organizational issue rather than an individual problem. She believes that individuals should be given tools to manage their feelings and self-doubt, such as psychological flexibility, to overcome this state of mind. Psychological flexibility involves being present in one’s life, aware of and open to all internal experiences, emotions, physiological sensations, urges, and thoughts. This allows individuals to make choices based on their deeply held personal values and who they want to be. The goal is to cycle and build psychological flexibility by identifying your values, recognizing the way thoughts and feelings get in the way of you heading in that direction, and changing your relationship to these thoughts. Additional approaches to dealing with impostor syndrome include seeking advice from others, such as talking to other speakers or CEOs, and understanding why they feel that way. Jill shares a strategy for book authors.


Approaches to Dealing with Discomfort

Jill discusses various approaches to dealing with anxiety and self-doubt, including comparing oneself to others, enjoying one’s position, treating failure as an opportunity to test something out, and accepting that we are built to avoid uncertainty. She emphasizes the importance of learning to be okay with uncertainty and taking risks in order to spread their message. Jill explains the loop that people get stuck in, and that our brains overestimate the likelihood of bad things happening, and underestimate our ability to cope with it. She suggests testing out new experiences and being willing to do hard things in the presence of pain. She also emphasizes the importance of treating the imposter experience as a learning experience and acknowledging that most people are not paying attention to you. The key takeaway from the conversation is to get comfortable being uncomfortable and to stop letting thoughts bully you into behavior. She suggests getting clear on your values and how you want to live and work. She uses the metaphor of a ship on a journey, where the fog of thoughts and feelings can be dangerous but can be overcome by dropping anchor and waiting for the fog to pass. Jill suggests using a lighthouse, such as a beacon, to guide you forward even when the fog of painful thoughts and feelings is present. By having your values as a guide, you can continue moving forward on your journey, even if it is slower and more scary. A few other tactics Jill suggests are taking cold showers, brushing teeth with non-dominant hands, eating foods that don’t appeal to you, watching sad movies, and allowing yourself to feel uncomfortable. By practicing being with your discomfort, you can make space and open up to feeling it. There are various exercises to practice this, such as crossing your legs or hands in the Funny Feeling way. These activities help you learn that these feelings are temporary and not harmful.


The Cost of Being Human

Additionally, she stresses that it is important to understand that thoughts are not facts, and don’t let your thoughts bully you. She suggests creating distance and making values-driven choices. Two simple ways to do this include taking a thought that gives you trouble and noticing how it feels. This metacognition helps you recognize that these thoughts are just thoughts in your head, not reality. Another way is to give your inner critic a name, like “Sheila” or “no,” which keeps it separate and allows you to make different choices. By focusing on the discomfort and the fact that thoughts are not facts, you can create a space where you can make values-driven choices. Jill talks about the concept of pain as a cost of being human, but how we respond to it is a choice. If we resist, we create suffering, while if we turn down the resistance, we turn down the suffering. Jill also mentions her website, which has resources like a quiz and three tips to living a mighty life. Jill shares two quizzes on her website: one to identify your subtype of imposter, which includes perfectionists, experts, and avoiders. She also discusses different ways we tend to avoid, such as being the doer and avoider.In summary, Jill discusses the themes of inner critics and the importance of self-awareness in overcoming imposter phenomena. She encourages listeners to share her resources on her website and share her insights on the topic.



Website:   www.jillstoddard.com

The quizzes: www.jillstoddard.com/quizzes

The clinic (The Center for Stress & Anxiety Management): www.csamsandiego.com

The podcast (Psychologists Off the Clock): www.offtheclockpsych.com


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Jill Stoddard


Will Bachman, Jill Stoddard


Will Bachman  00:02

Hello, and welcome to Unleashed. I’m your host will Bachman and I’m excited to be here today. And I don’t know if I’m really the right person to be doing this interview. But nevertheless, I’m here today with Jill Stoddard who is the author of impostor no more overcome self doubt and impostor ism to cultivate a successful career Joe, I really don’t know if I am well qualified interview you or not. But welcome to the show.


Jill Stoddard  00:28

Thank you. Well, thanks for having me. It sounds like you’re having a little bit of impostor ism about your about your interviewing right now.


Will Bachman  00:35

Yes, I was. I was just joking a little bit. If anything, I suffer from perhaps the opposite problem, which is pasta syndrome of people, people who are, who think they’re fully qualified to do something, but actually were, you know, inappropriately promoted to some role or don’t deserve to be where they’re at is probably more more what I suffer from. So I would, I’m excited to dig into this topic. Tell me how, what, let’s first define terms, because I always like to do that. Define for me, how would you define imposter syndrome?


Jill Stoddard  01:15

Yeah. So it is this experience that people have that it’s an experience that exists and persists? Where people question, their competence, their legitimacy, even when there is objective evidence that shows they’re accomplished, they’re achieving, but they still question they think people overestimate their competence, you know, and the fear is that at any minute, they’re going to be outed as a fraud. Everyone’s going to figure out, I don’t really know what I’m doing. And they’re all going to, they’re all going to figure out that I’m a fraud.


Will Bachman  01:50

Okay, so that’s the classic definition of maybe self definition at McKinsey, everybody calls themselves or they would refer to other people, the firm is insecure overachievers, it’s probably not unique. Yes. But certainly commonly, phrase, you’d hear a lot there. To your knowledge, is this a recent phenomenon? Or did the ancient Greeks feel that way? I mean, is this something relatively new? And if so, when did it come about? Well,


Jill Stoddard  02:22

it was identified in 1978. But I am quite certain it likely existed before that. And in fact, I think there are evolutionary roots to this, and we can talk about that if you want, but it was officially identified in 1978 by two women psychologists Pauline Clance, and Suzanne IMEs, and they originally called it the imposter phenomenon and believed that it only existed in high achieving women. And then, interestingly, our culture, rebranded it as a syndrome, which I think is probably not a coincidence that a bunch of high achieving women have some insecurity and all of a sudden, people think it’s a disease or a pathology. So part of what I talk about in the book is calling for a cultural rebranding and going back to calling this the imposter phenomenon or impostor experience or impostor ism. Because this is something that affects a huge number of people. And the prevalence rates vary quite a bit, you can find studies anywhere from 9% to 86%. But most studies find between like 40 and 70%. So you know, if this is something that’s happening to most of us, then it’s certainly not a disease or disorder, or pathology, right to call it a syndrome. So it’s been around for a long time, it affects a lot of people. And like I said, I think there, there are even evolutionary reasons that so so many of us have these thoughts and feelings.


Will Bachman  03:53

Okay, so. And so that’s very interesting history of this, that it was kind of named relatively recently. And what’s your sense of it? Is this something that you think has, you know, been with us for millennia? Did European aristocrats feel like, Oh, why should I be a Duke? You know, I mean, what did I do? I just was born to do good, but you know, a son of a Duke, and now I’m a Duke, what did I do deserve this? Or did clerics feel that way? Or authors or is it something more? Or is it something more recent and human history that something about the modern world makes us ISIS?


Jill Stoddard  04:33

I suspect that there has been a type of this around for a long time. And the reason I say that is if you think about early humans, you know, like cave people, humans, early humans, you know, we didn’t have sharp claws. We didn’t have sharp teeth. We didn’t run at high speeds. We hate each other. And early humans who hunted and gathered and traveled together had a survival advantage. And so it made sense to always be checking your status. In the group, do I measure up? Do I add value? Am I competent enough? Am I good enough? Because if the answer to any of those questions is no, then I risked being ousted from my tribe. And that is a literal life or death situation. And so, you know, I think when you think of evolution and the fittest, who survived it, it’s the people who engaged in social comparison, it’s the people who worried that they were going to be found out for being less than that ended up, you know, making sure that they didn’t get kicked out of the tribe and checking their status. And so I do think that this has probably been around forever. But of course, technology and other modern advances, certainly social media, I think it created a context where this is just like on steroids.


Will Bachman  05:47

You mentioned status few times. Over the past year or two, I’ve read a couple books that I found fascinating on status. One was named status and culture, I think, by David Marks, and another one was the status game. And I forget the author talked to me about how does kind of status relate to imposter phenomenon? Let’s call it


Jill Stoddard  06:11

well, it the these the imposter thoughts and feelings. Now, let me first say there’s not a lot of research on this. So if you put, you know imposter syndrome into a Google search, you’ll get hundreds of millions of hits, or maybe it’s 10s of millions, but it’s a lot. If you search in a scientific database, like PubMed, it’s hundreds rather than hundreds of millions. So there has not been a lot of really good, rigorous science done on this. And I feel like that’s important to know, because a lot of what we’re talking about out there is their hypotheses more than answers to what are otherwise empirical questions. So that said, going back to this idea about status, one thing we do know from research, the little bit that’s out there is that these impostor thoughts and feelings appear to be positively correlated with success. So the more successful you are, the more likely you are to have these thoughts and feelings. And that was really fascinating to me, it’s what got me interested in studying this, it wasn’t so much that it existed, it made sense to me that it existed, especially, you know, for me personally, early on in my career, I didn’t know as much so it sort of made sense that I worried that I didn’t know as much. But I thought for sure, once I racked up more achievements and had greater, you know, standing or status professionally, that I would kind of outrun these thoughts and feelings. And of course, that didn’t end up happening. And the more I looked into this, and started asking people about it and doing research on it, I found that in fact, the opposite is true. And I just think that’s fascinating. We don’t know exactly why, but the main hypothesis is, the more you know, the more you’re expected to know, right, like as you as you grow from, you know, say the mailroom clerk up to the CEO, of course, you’re expected to know much more, even though you may not feel like you know, as much more as you’re supposed to. And you know, what, Valerie Young’s another person who specializes in this area, she says, now you have a reputation to defend, that that may be playing a role, too. So you know, I don’t know if that really answers your question about status. Exactly. But did ask is there give me a follow up question. If there’s more that you want to know that I’m not really answering there. Alright.


Will Bachman  08:26

So you talked earlier about how it’s people can feel impostor syndrome, even though they have facts at their disposal, that would suggest that they are well qualified for whatever role they’re in. So what do you think it is that drives that? It’s one thing if you’re in a role, and you really aren’t qualified for it? That’d be one thing. You should feel like an imposter, I guess. I mean, if they, you know, but if you are relatively well qualified, at least compared to your peers, what do you think is it that makes us think that other people who are in similar roles are well qualified, even if they’re kind of LinkedIn or the resume suggests that they have similar backgrounds to us, and they’re no more qualified than us that what makes us think that other people are more competent than we are? And, you know, someone who said, Well, I look, I’m kind of an idiot, I’m not really well qualified. But these other folks doing similar things, they’re kind of idiots not really well qualified, either. So we’re all sort of similarly don’t know what we’re doing. Right? We’re all just gonna make it up as we go along. If you’re a CEO, and you really know well, some other top CEOs, you’re like, Yeah, we’re all just kind of making it up and no one has the answers. Then you could say, Well, I’m not qualified, but no one is so that I’m kind of, I’m not an imposter. There’s no There’s yeah, there’s no one well qualified. But what is it that makes us think that other people are well qualified? And we’re not?


Jill Stoddard  10:03

I think this is actually fairly complex. And I think there’s there’s lots of different possibilities. One is that we don’t actually talk much about this, like I, how many CEOs have you talked to who admit to not feeling qualified. And so we sit here in our own little space going, Oh, my God, everyone knows more than me. And they’re more competent than me, they’re more qualified than me. It, I’m the only one who doesn’t know what I’m doing or who’s who is a fraud. The more you start talking about this to other people, the more you learn just how common it is. And these assumptions we make that other people are qualified, or they believe that they’re qualified, don’t really pan out so that that’s one piece. Another piece is, you know, when you said you’re a pasta, not an imposter that immediately makes me think of the Dunning Kruger cognitive bias. So we have this group of people who, who overestimate their knowledge or skills or competence. And they’re not even competent enough to realize that they’re not competent, like they’re not smart enough to know they’re not smart. And I’m not saying that’s you as the pastor, but your joke made me think about that, that. So we have these people who are overconfident and under qualified. So that’s another, you know, sort of portion. And then I think we really cannot ignore the so social and cultural influences here. So like I said, in the 70s, when this was thought to only impact high achieving women, something that was called a phenomenon was quickly rebranded as syndrome and that sexism. And if you look at you know, I, again, this is a hypothesis that hasn’t really been empirically tested yet. But my hypothesis, and others have said the same is that the people who are more prone to this are those who have had some experiences with marginalization. So if you’re a woman who has been told you don’t belong in male spaces, or you’re a person of color, who has been told you don’t belong in white spaces, or you know, gay persons, but totally don’t belong, history, spaces, etc, etc, etc, then it stands to reason, you’re going to question whether you belong in these spaces. And, you know, it was not so long, like when this was identified in the 70s, I mean, women weren’t allowed to get their own credit cards or bank loans until the 70s. Right, like, my mother’s generation, I’m Gen X. So my mother’s generation, you know, you could be a secretary, a nurse, a teacher, or a mother. So if you tried to be an entrepreneur, you dare to go into STEM spaces, of course, you’re going to be told you don’t belong in those spaces. And of course, there’s endless examples like that. And, you know, so I think that lends a lot. That’s a learning experience that influences people developing some self doubt, right. So there’s evolution, we were, we were built to question whether we measure up because there’s a survival advantage. There’s the social cultural learning history and experiences of marginalization. And then, you know, of course, other aspects of our learning history, the way we’re parented, the way we’re raised, you know, if you had parents who were very critical, or the opposite, even if you had parents who like, over praised you for things you kind of knew you didn’t really deserve to be praised on, you know, any of these experiences, can, you know, end up being internalized in a way that makes you question your competence? And then because we’re not all talking about these insecurities, we assume that we’re the only ones and that everyone else has it together. And then, you know, add social media and how we’re looking at everybody’s highlight reels, and how they all seem very successful and happy. You know, it’s sort of this like breeding ground for this kind of comparison and insecurity. Yes,


Will Bachman  13:52

I’d say most people are less impressive when you start talking to them in person, compared to Yeah, exactly. You would imagine or expect, yeah, oh, person’s $100 million. I told him $100 million company, you meet them in person, they’re just kind of figuring out as they


Jill Stoddard  14:11

are not that special, right? They may have more confidence, but they don’t necessarily have more, you know, skill or real specialness.


Will Bachman  14:19

So let’s talk about some things that someone who experiences impostor ism can do about it, or should they do something about it, you mentioned that it could actually be a positive in terms of your career success. So tell us about some of the recommendations of your book in terms of how to deal with this phenomenon or or


Jill Stoddard  14:43

I don’t want to call it this, but yeah, you can call it anything other than syndrome. Yeah. Well, that I do still call it that sometimes because it is really the term that people recognize most but you know, it’s also problematic. So I think we’re my state ants in my book are different from everything else that’s out there is a lot of the advice you come across is either, you know, the most modern advice is kind of listen, this is a systemic and organizational problem. This is not a you problem. So don’t even say you have impostor syndrome, like let’s just forget this thing even exist. And I actually think, I agree that this is a systemic and organizational issue. But I also think if we sit around waiting for systems and organizations to change, we’re going to be waiting a long time and meanwhile suffering, when we’re feeling, you know, insecure and having some self doubt. And so I think it’s kind of a both. And, yes, we need to identify the ways in which systems are promoting this and try to make change there. And also give individuals the tools to be able to manage this so that it’s not getting in the way of them, you know, having the life and career that they want. And so I think the way we tackle that at the individual level, is through psychological flexibility. And what that means, well, let me say how other people tackle it first, the most common thing you find is five ways to boost your confidence, here’s how to start thinking positively, stop questioning yourself. And if people are able to do that, great, but what I have found with myself, my clients is that as a really hard sell that because of evolution, and learning history, all things that we can’t erase all things that are baked into us, it’s really hard to change, and I’m not good enough story, it’s really hard to kind of force yourself to feel more confident. And so what I promote in the book is not trying to force your thoughts and feelings to be a certain way, but to change your relationship to them so that they’re not in charge of what you’re choosing to do or not do. And that’s their psychological flexibility. And what that means is your ability to be in this one present moment, aware of and open to all of your internal experiences, so emotions, physiological sensations, urges, thoughts, etc. To allow those to be as they are, and to make choices based on your deeply held personal values. So who you want to be what you want to stand for the life that you want to live. So that’s the goal is cycle building psychological flexibility, the way that you become more psychologically flexible, is kind of twofold. Well, threefold. So one is identifying your values so that you know where you want to be heading. And then when you recognize the way in which thoughts and feelings get in the way of you heading in that direction, you change your relationship to them in two ways. One is through willingness or acceptance. And the easy way to think about that is getting comfortable being uncomfortable, like think about how much your in your life would change if you were willing to feel uncomfortable. And then the other is by changing your relationship to your thoughts. So instead of kind of treating thoughts as truths with a capital T, letting them be these like mini dictators in your, in your brains, you can learn to sort of unhook to observe to get some distance, and ask yourself, if I listened to this thought, is it going to move me toward the life and career I want? Or is it going to keep me hanging back in some in some way? And so you’re becoming a much more conscious, deliberate decider about what you want your life to look like, and changing your relationship to those thoughts and feelings. So they’re not the ones making that decision, but your values are really in charge.


Will Bachman  18:29

Okay, so what about what’s your take on? The following approaches? Some additional, some additional approaches? I’m curious. One approach is to try to take No, I don’t think it’s impossible. I don’t think it’s possible to say just stop questioning yourself, like, how could you do that? Like, but, but you can’t. But what if you? What about people who try to take a fact based approach, it says, Okay, go and investigate people who are in a similar position than you, if you’re now going to be giving a speech in front of 1000 people? Like, it’s Oh, who am I give the speech? Well, actually, don’t just sort of imagine, but really get to know some other speakers who are giving talks as well. And, you know, speak with them, get to know them one on one, and, you know, didn’t like learn their background? And find out that they’re no more impressive than you on a factual basis or something, right? Or if they’re a CEO, like, try to get to know some other CEOs, and are they really more capable than you? Why do you feel that way? What’s your take on trying to actually that kind of comparison type approach? Yeah.


Jill Stoddard  19:40

So I think this can be useful, but there’s sort of a but or it depends. So the way I think about this somewhat, someone told me the strategy and I thought this was brilliant. It’s similar to what you’re saying. So as a book author, it’s hard to be an author you’re you don’t always get the sales numbers you want. You might get some bad reviews which are very pain in full, and so I’ve heard people talk about go to a go to Stephen King’s, you know, Goodreads page or one of your favorite authors who you just think is like the most brilliant talented person and go read their reviews. And you’ll find a whole bunch of one star reviews, even for these incredibly, you know, successful people that you think are good authors. So that’s similar to what you’re saying it’s sort of a data gathering, exhibition so that you know, oh, even people who are talented, have this happen to them, and etc. Now, I think that can be helpful. But I also think it tends to be temporary. So what you’re talking about is, okay, I’m feeling really insecure and self conscious, and I don’t like that feeling. And so what I’m going to do is go talk to these CEOs or look at these other these other book reviews. And when I do that, that’s going to make me feel better, temporarily. But these thoughts and feelings are going to come back there’s I have with 100% certainty, I can tell you, they’re going to come back because this is just what brains do. We are built with an inner critic that is designed to try to protect us from failure from humiliation from rejection. And so these thoughts and feelings will continue to happen. And you’ve now taught yourself, the only way that I can feel better is if I go on this fact finding mission. And so you can end up in a bit of a loop, where instead of learning how to just be with those feelings, and move on, you’re getting almost like more stuck in this need to feel better, like an easy way to think about it is like addiction. If you’re just thinking about this model, what I’m talking about is called negative reinforcement. And so if you think about somebody say who’s an alcoholic, they have cravings, and it’s uncomfortable. So they go drink, and they feel better. But now the next time they have cravings, what do they need to do to feel better, they need to go drink and they get stuck in this kind of loop. And anything that we’re doing or not doing to avoid a feeling we don’t like have having we run the risk of being put into that negative reinforcement loop. Does that make sense? The way I explained it,


Will Bachman  22:11

yeah, it does. So that’s yeah, that’s like one approach of trying to actually compare yourself. I’m curious to hear your reaction to another approach, like very different, which should be acknowledged, maybe I am not super qualified. But you know, what? Who cares, I’m going to number one, just sort of enjoy this while I’m in this position and just sort of have fun with it. Or number two, look, if I fail, that’s okay. I’m just going to treat this as a kind of experiment slash, you know, opportunity to test something out. And, you know, maybe I, maybe I’m not qualified to give a speech in front of 1000 people, but I’m just gonna, you know, kind of see what happens and do it. And, you know, maybe there’s better speakers out there. That’s okay. And if, if I get booed or something, that’s okay. Yeah, I will get some,


Jill Stoddard  23:04

I think, yeah, that is a much better approach that that is a very healthy approach. Because essentially, what’s going on when we feel anxious and self doubt, it’s, it’s the, it’s the discomfort with uncertainty, that’s really driving a lot of those feelings. I don’t know if I’m going to succeed. I don’t know how this is gonna go. I don’t know what other people really think of me. And we hate uncertainty. Right. And that also is evolutionarily programmed, you know, the early humans who avoided uncertainty or resolved uncertainty had a survival advantage, they were less likely to be eaten out on the savanna, right. And so we’re built to avoid uncertainty and to dislike uncertainty. And so what you’re basically describing is, I’m going to learn how to be okay with uncertainty, I’m going to say, you know, what, I don’t actually know where I land on the competence measure, you know, I don’t know if I’m as competent or qualified as these other people. And that’s okay, I don’t need to know, I can take this risk, I can put myself out there, because it’s important to me, because I want to spread this message. And so I’m gonna take the risk and do it. And even if it doesn’t go great, I can handle it. So the other thing we know about brains is that we overestimate the likelihood that bad things are going to happen. And we underestimate our ability to cope with it. And the only way we can kind of recap, recalibrate those expectations is by doing it is by testing it out. And so you get out there and you do the thing. And it probably doesn’t go as poorly as you think it’s going to but even if it does, you can handle it. And this is how you learn and this is how you get better. And of course that takes a thicker skin. It’s the harder thing to do than avoiding or then doing the data gathering thing that you said earlier because it requires that you’re doing hard things in the presence of Pain, you have to be willing to do it scared. Yeah,


Will Bachman  25:03

I’ve done plenty of things that have bombed. But I think the realization is number one to treat it almost like a lark or just like a learning, you know, test, whatever, but also to realize that most people are not paying attention to you. And if your thing bombs most people are not going to remember or notice. So, but anyway, okay, yeah, I want to, could you please recap your, your suggestions, so you went through several of them. But just like, recap it in, like, Yeah, I’m gonna kind of a key takeaway. So someone wants to remember, okay, here’s my three approaches, just like 10 or 15 words these like, like, what’s the, what’s the kind of key capsule there? Alright, someone wants to test this out.


Jill Stoddard  25:49

I’m gonna say, first of all, the imposter experience is just part of being a normal human, it doesn’t mean you’re broken. And so it’s not something that needs to be fixed. But when these thoughts and feelings are causing you some difficulty, you can change your relationship to them in two ways, one, get comfortable being uncomfortable. And you can practice that a lot of different ways which I can share some of those if you want, or I can I have some strategy? You know, I, you can tell me if you want me to share those offline or online? No,


Will Bachman  26:22

no, the other guys are number one, we’ll get back to that one. Number one, then is get comfortable with being uncomfortable. It’s okay to be uncomfortable. Alright, we’ll get back to that one. But I can You can handle it. Okay.


Jill Stoddard  26:32

Okay. Number two. The next is, thoughts are not facts, stop letting your thoughts bully you into behavior. Okay, so, right, you’re going to choose how to respond to your thoughts rather than just, you know, being a puppet to them. letting them be your puppet master. And then the last thing would be to get really clear on your values. What kind of life and career Do you want? Who do you want to be? How do you want to show up and like, like, let that really be your guide. And I have a great metaphor that’s pretty memorable. If you want me to share that that might


Will Bachman  27:08

be helpful. Of course,


Jill Stoddard  27:09

I would love it, if you would share it. Okay. So this is my favorite. So this is if you think about yourself and your life as a ship, you’re on a journey. And you’re you’re floating through the water, and all of a sudden, the very thick fog rolls in and you think, well, this is dangerous. I shouldn’t keep going on my journey. I really need to drop anchor and wait for this fog to pass. And the fog of course is your thoughts and feelings your self doubt your your imposter ism, your anxiety. But the problem with dropping anchor is what if those thoughts never clear what if the fog doesn’t go away, now you’re stuck, you’re stagnant, you’re no longer moving forward on this journey. But there is a way to move forward even in the presence of that fog. And that’s the lighthouse. And the lighthouse is your values, you can look to your values as a beacon to guide you forward. Even when that thick fog of painful thoughts and feelings is there with you. And it might be slower. And it might be you know, more scary. But you can still continue to move forward on this journey when you have your values to be your guide.


Will Bachman  28:13

Okay, so get the lighthouse or if we’re if we’re in blue ocean waters, we might say use GPS. But I think I get the point. Yeah. So and let’s talk about number one. So I might, you know, so get comfortable being uncomfortable, maybe lean into discomfort. Yes, one. One thing that I’ve been doing this year, just to kind of get myself in a daily habit of that is first thing I do in the morning, is literally the first thing I get out of bed, walk to the bathroom, I take a two minute cold shower, I tie my phone to slot two, and which is uncomfortable. It does not get more comfortable after 10 months of doing this. But it is a way of just sort of preparing me throughout the day to lean into discomfort. What are some of your tips around how to get comfortable about being uncomfortable, get comfortable with discomfort.


Jill Stoddard  29:10

So that is a perfect example of exactly what to do. And I think of it as training that like if you told me you wanted to run a marathon but you had never even walked around the block, you’re not going to go do 26.2 This weekend, you’re going to train with easier things. A cold shower is a perfect example of that. You know if what you want to do is give a TED Talk and you’re absolutely terrified. You’re not going to go do that this weekend. Go take some cold showers and start getting comfortable being uncomfortable so you can ultimately graduate to the TED talk at some point. So other ways that I do this are using you can use your five senses. So you might brush your teeth with your non dominant hand. You might eat foods that you don’t particularly I do this with clients eating bean boozled jelly beans, which are the jelly beans that come Then like Vomit flavor and old dirty bandage, but at the end of the day, they’re just jelly beans. You can watch sad, like the last five minutes of Marley and Me to make space for sadness. You can watch a politician who you don’t like now you’re not, you’re not learning, like willingness or acceptance of their messages, what you’re doing is looking for stimuli to trigger discomfort inside, so that you can then practice being with your discomfort. Right, that’s, that’s what that’s about. It’s about making space and opening up and allowing yourself to feel uncomfortable, and how you trigger that. This is where you can get creative and playful. Showers are a great, great way to do it. And there’s, you know, there’s many, many other ways. Anyone who does yoga is familiar with your teacher saying, cross your legs or cross your hands, okay, now cross them the Funny Feeling way. And we’re like, Oh, I hate the Funny Feeling like you can do that every day to practice getting comfortable being uncomfortable. You don’t even have to do yoga. I’m sitting, you know, cross legged right now. And I just switched my legs. So now they’re the Funny Feeling way and I’m just gonna hang out like this while we talk. Yeah,


Will Bachman  31:07

a couple other exercises that I’ve seen. Along the journey has been on the subway or on the bus, just ask someone if you can have their seat.


Jill Stoddard  31:19

A little Yeah, don’t even give them anything that’s outside of the social mores. I take my clients used to take my clients to do this. Anyone have social anxiety? We do things like this, that they’re called, like social mishap exposures, where you’re deliberately doing something that, you know, I used to have, I am thinking of a guy I had when I was he was walking around Kenmore Square in Boston, asking people for directions to Kenmore Square, and he had his shirt buttoned the wrong way. And his hair messed up. And he literally thought someone was going to call 911. And he was going to be taken to an inpatient unit. And of course, that didn’t happen. And everyone was very nice. And he had someone say, Oh, honey, you’re in Kenmore Square, can I? Can I help you find somewhere specific, you know, and then you learn the bad thing you’re afraid is gonna happen? Doesn’t happen. And you can handle it.


Will Bachman  32:06

Yeah. Or even just make eye contact with someone when you’re walking down the street. And don’t be the first to look away? You know, that kind of thing? Yeah. Okay, so we talked about lean into discomfort, just get used to the idea that it’s okay to be uncomfortable.


Jill Stoddard  32:23

They’re just feelings, and they’re not going to hurt you. They’re temporary.


Will Bachman  32:27

And the next one was, thoughts are not facts. So tell us a little bit some exercises, or some things to do to get used to that idea.


Jill Stoddard  32:36

Yeah, so what we’re really wanting to do is create distance. And then in that space, this is where you can make these values driven choices. And so my two favorite ways to do this, they’re very simple. The first is like, take a thought that gives you trouble. So let’s just take I’m not good enough, because somebody, everyone has some version of it, I’m not gonna start to say to yourself, I’m not good enough. And notice how that feels. And now say, I’m having the thought that I’m not good enough. And notice how that feels. And now try, I’m noticing I’m having the thought that I’m not good enough. And see how that feels. So what do you notice? Well, yeah,


Will Bachman  33:16

that’s that three part. The making it explicit about this very metacognition kind of thing going on. Like that.


Jill Stoddard  33:27

Yeah, like you’re getting some distance, and you’re going, Oh, this is, this is just the thing that’s happening in my head. This isn’t reality. These are just sounds and syllables and words that I’m noticing. The other way I like to do it is to give your inner critic a name. And so you know, mine has always been Sheila don’t know, why don’t no, no, or just like any Sheila’s just happened to come to me one day. So now when that inner critic gets louder, go, okay, Sheila, I know you’re just trying to protect me from failure and humiliation or rejection. But I’ve got this, and it sort of kind of keeps it over here like keeps it separate, where I then have the space to make a different choice. And I’ve had clients name it the bully the dictator, you know, just the inner critic. It doesn’t have to be a human name. I got a before my book even officially came out someone somehow read it early and gave me a one star book review, which is pretty it’s pretty painful when that happens in your book isn’t even out yet. Thankfully, the rest of the involved in lovely, but when I was telling my writing partners about it, because I was feeling sad and anxious. My friend Emily said, Not today, Kevin. And now that’s become one of my techniques. When my inner critic pops up. I go not today, Kevin. You can have your opinion about this. But I’m going to move forward with you know, writing the books and sharing the books and doing whatever it is that I’m doing that I might be feeling a little bit insecure about.


Will Bachman  34:52

So this idea of naming that inner critic that seems to me kind of sympathetic with the A kind of theme of Steven Pressfield nonfiction works the The War of Art and turning pro and his other books in that series. And how would you say that your thinking here kind of relates to his if you’re familiar with with his books?


Jill Stoddard  35:22

I’m actually not Who is it? This sounds like someone I need to have on my podcast. Are they still living in modern? Yes. So


Will Bachman  35:29

Steven Pressfield. He’s, he wrote The War of Art. Playing, of course on the The Art of War, title Art of War. Yeah, that was a is. He’s a fiction author, the author of The Legend of Bagger Vance and a screenwriter. And oh, okay. He’s written a lot of books about kind of ancient Greece, like, fictional books on Sparta and so forth. And, but he’s also has the side thing of writing that came out of The War of Art, turning pro, and he has a couple others in that in that series, doing do the work, I think is another one with Oh, yeah, that one I’ve heard of, with this idea of he, he labels this force, the resistance, and very much personifies it as this evil force in the universe that is attempting to divert you from, you know, creating the thing that you are meant to create, and that everyone suffers from it, and experiences it, and you can never actually overcome it. You can only defeat it one day at a time by, you know, acknowledging that it exists and just refusing to accept that it will divert you from your, your path would be


Jill Stoddard  36:41

Yeah, exactly. That’s, I’m gonna have to check him out. That’s, I mean, that sounds perfectly consistent with with that, yes, I completely agree with those messages. And even the word resistance, I don’t know if this fits with his work. But a lot of the influences I do a therapy called Acceptance and Commitment Therapy. And that’s where this idea of psychological flexibility comes from. It’s the goal of, of Act. And an act is, is influenced quite a bit by ancient eastern religions, like Buddhism, where in Buddhism, they say pain times resistance equals suffering. Pain is just, you know, the cost of a ticket to being human, right, like none of us get out of this life without experiencing pain. But how we respond to the pain is the part we get to choose. And if we resist, then we create suffering. But if we turn down the resistance, then we turn down the suffering. So we have to have the pain but the suffering is more of a choice. And that’s all about whether we resist the pain or whether we learn how to lean into it, basically.


Will Bachman  37:41

I think that you have on your website, some different resources, would you like to mention those I know you have at least a quiz and perhaps some other things.


Jill Stoddard  37:50

I do Gosh, what is on there I’ve got I think there’s a three tips to living a mighty life that kind of summarizes some of the things that might my last book was called the mighty. So that’s why the word Mighty is in there. And that has some of the things that we’ve talked about today, I have a, I have two quizzes. One is to identify your subtype of imposter. So we all try to avoid being outed as a fraud in a number of different ways. So one is called the perfectionist, I’m the what you would call the expert, which is the person who needs to read one more book, take one more class, listen to one more podcasts, like it’s never enough knowledge and skill to feel like you’re legitimate, right? And there’s three others. And so you can take that quiz to find out your subtype. And then I also talk in the book about the different ways that we tend to avoid so for that one, there’s five of those two, I’m the doer, that’s the person that does go go go doo doo doo, doo doo doo, super busy, super busy. And then you don’t feel your anxiety and self doubt as long as you’re always doing. And then there’s the opposite of that the person who’s more of an avoider and there’s three other subtypes there. So there’s quizzes for both of those if people are interested in a little more of that self awareness to and then once you know, once you know those things, you’re much better at spotting them and recognizing the ways that they might be getting in the way of cultivating the life and the career that you want.


Will Bachman  39:15

And where can people find those resources? Share? Share your link


Jill Stoddard  39:20

right on my website, which is just Jill stoddard.com. And my last name is spelled s t o d d ARD fantastic


Will Bachman  39:27

and we will include that link in the show notes. Jill, it was such a pleasure speaking with you today. Thank you for sharing tips on overcoming imposter phenomena.


Jill Stoddard  39:39

You are so welcome. Well, thanks so much for having me. It was really fun to chat with you

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